By Chris Kieffer
CORINTH – The head of Mississippi’s school system wants to allow students to test out of high school courses.
Speaking during Thursday’s Corinth Education Summit, Carey Wright said she would be open to the state changing its “seat time” requirements that students must spend so many hours in the classroom in order to earn credit. Instead, she said, those who gain mastery should be able to advance more quickly.
“I’m very interested in making sure we allow students to accelerate their pace,” Wright said. “If a student has mastered the material, I’m looking at is it fair to require them to stay in that class or to test and move on?”
The proposal must be looked at carefully, Wright said, and would require a change in the law. The state also would have to find a good test to use to measure mastery.
Wright compared it to the way college students can earn credit for classes by meeting certain scores on Advanced Placement tests. It would allow students to spend more time on more challenging courses, she sad.
Corinth Superintendent Lee Childress said it is a proposal he would favor.
“We want to move from a time-based system to a performance-based system,” he said. “That is the key – can a student perform? Can an individual perform in the job he or she is hired to do in the business sector?
“I have a keen interest in that. It will require some legislation, but it is the right thing to do. We are running schools on the factory model, and that has to change.”
During her remarks, Wright also spoke of the importance of funding for schools and of high-quality pre-K. She said the state should fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and restore state funds for teacher supplies and for school buildings. Those funds were intended to be separate from the state funding formula, but recently have been diverted to MAEP.
Wright called for the state to provide $1 million to help administrators and teachers train for implementing the new Common Core State Standards.
Those are new math and language arts guidelines that have been fully adopted by 45 states, including Mississippi. Students will first be tested on them during the next school year.
Wright acknowledged the standards have been controversial but reiterated her support for them. She said they set the benchmarks for which skills students should know in each grade level and emphasized that local school districts would write their own curriculum.
Wright also requested an additional $15 million to train teachers, principals and universities in helping educators better teach literacy skills. A new state law says all third-graders must be reading on grade level before they can advance to fourth grade.
“If we are going to ask for excellence in literacy, we are going to have to fund it,” Wright said.